The dreaded plateau is not just a fitness concept – most musicians, at some point or another, are forced to face it as well. It’s when many students decide to give up and end their music lessons, because they’re convinced they are unable to learn any more. The key? Have a plan of action.
As any pro musician (or athlete, at that) can tell you, it’s just a matter of breaking through that barrier and keeping the inspiration alive. And maybe the extra oomph that you need is a matter of adding a few more minutes of practicing each day. Who knows – you might discover a new source of motivation as you dissect certain passages or try out different warm-up exercises.
If you’ve already hit the plateau and feel frustrated with a lack of progress, consider these 5 ideas for extending your practice sessions, as published on The Collaborative Piano Blog:
1. Work in more detail. Take apart each phrase and discover what you need to do in order to make it fit into the whole. Once you’ve finished working on one phrase to your satisfaction, go on to the next one.
2. Repetition. Once you’ve got a passage worked out, repeat it several times to solidify it in your playing. Having longer practice sessions can accomplish this very nicely. Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean running whole pieces several times and calling it a practice session, unless the detail work is already in place.
3. Come back to each piece you’re working on every day. Day-by-day repetition is what can add tremendous reliability to your performance. That passage that almost worked in the first session of the week can usually be played with ease if attended to daily. There’s something about working hard on a passage, setting it aside and then returning to it the next day that builds confidence and command to what seemed initially unplayable.
4. Warm up properly. Consult with your music teacher as to how you should warm up every day. Try out several different types and styles to keep things interesting.
5. Add more diverse activities to your daily practice session. Changing gears several times can lessen any chance of boredom practicing. Activities such as technical exercises, sight reading, transposition, reviewing old pieces, playing in a different musical style and improvising can make your time spent practicing more rewarding.
Remember: Musicians of all levels can experience the feeling of hitting a wall. When that happens, it’s important to look back on what motivated you in the first place and keep that momentum going. And of course, let your music teacher know how you’re feeling. Maybe all you need to break through the plateau is a shift in focus, exposure to some other creative outlets or some new music! (If you don’t have a private teacher, sign up for lessons here.)
Have you reached a plateau in your own music studies? How did you keep your motivation up? Share your story – leave a comment below, or head on over to our Facebook page!